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William Barningham (1825-1882)

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William Barningham (1825-1882) of William Barningham

1825 January 6th. Born at Arkengarthdale, the son of Thomas Barningham (1781-1843), a shoemaker, and his wife Ann Darnley (1775-1846)

1841 He is living at Linthorp, Darlington: William Barningham (age c15), a Cast Iron Moulder, living with John Barningham (age c20), a Railway Smith; Christopher Barningham (age c20), a Cast Iron Moulder; and Hannah Barningham (age c20), a Dressmaker.[1]

1851 He is a visitor in West Street, Middlesbrough and described as an Iron Founder (12 men).[2]

From a modest beginning in engineering in Middlesbrough, where he met John Harris, Barningham later established himself successfully in business in Pendleton, near Manchester, after seeing an opportunity to re-roll worn rails on a site where transport costs could be minimised - see William Barningham.

1855 Patent to William Barningham, of Salford, in the county of Lancaster, Iron Manufacturer, for the invention of "improvements in connecting the rails of railways."[3]

1855 December 31st. Married at Eccles to Margaret Pease (1827-1883)

As the Pendleton works were not suitable for larger foreign contracts for new rails, he sought a base in Cleveland - which became Darlington Iron Co.

1860 Birth of his daughter Mary Barningham (1860-1915) in Pendleton

1863 Patent by William Barningham, of the Pendleton Iron Works, Iron Manufacturer and Engineer, in respect of the invention of "improvements in the permanent way of railways."[4]

1866 Patent by William Barningham, of the Pendleton Iron Works, and of the Albert-hill Iron Works, Darlington, Engineer and Iron manufacturer, in respect of the invention of "improvements in machinery and apparatus for charging blast and other furnaces."[5]

1867 Patent by William Barningham, of the Rolling Mills, Pendleton, Engineer, and John Thompson, of the same place, Manager, for the invention of "improvements in machinery for bending, straightening, and punching rods, bars, and other articles of metal."[6]

1871 Living at 27 Frederick Street, Pendleton, Salford: William Barningham (age 45 born Arkendale, Yks), Iron Manufacturer employing 400 men and boys. With his wife Margaret Barningham (age 44 born Pontefract) and their daughter Mary Barningham (age 10 born Pendleton). One servant.[7]

1872 Sold his interests in the Pendleton Works. [It was said that he was 'desirous of retiring from their principal management'].

1881 Living at Cowle House, North Road, Darlington: William Barningham (age 55 born Arkengarthdale), Retired Ironmaster. With his wife Margaret Barningham (age 54 born Pontefract) and their daughter Mary Barningham (age 20 born Pendleton). Two servants.[8]

1882 November 3rd. Died


1882 Obituary [9]

Mr. WILLIAM BARNINGHAM, of Springfield, Darlington, and Pendleton, near Manchester, died at Pendleton on the 3d November last, after a long and severe illness.

The deceased was born at Arkingarthdale, near Richmond, Yorkshire, in 1826. He was the youngest of eleven sons and two daughters. His parents were poor, but their family was ancient. They were the original proprietors of the village of Barningham-on-the-Greta, which now forms part of the Millbank estate.

Young Barningham's first employment was to carry the letters from the post-office at Reeth, and deliver them at the village where he was born. In 1839 he travelled to Shildon (then the chief centre of the repairing works of the Stockton and Darlington Railway) in search of work, but not finding it there, he went to Middlesbrough, where he got employment as a blacksmith with his brother John. Here he soon began to develop mechanical genius, showing much ingenuity in the construction of small engines. His brother and he also acquired celebrity as makers of switches and crossings for railways.

In September 1843, Mr. Barningham and his brother went to France, expecting to find employment on the Paris and Rouen Railway, then being constructed by Messrs. Brassey, Mackenzie, and Co., who employed them on the permanent way of the new line. William Barningham, while so employed, laid before Mr. John Jones, the manager for Messrs. Brassey, Mackenzie, & Co., a plan he had conceived of making switches and crossings out of rails and railway chairs in separate sections, instead of making them all in one piece. He was allowed to carry his idea into practice, with the result that he realised about £300 in little over six months.

Returning to England, he and three of his brothers commenced a foundry at Manchester. This was not a success, and in eighteen months Mr. Barningham had lost all he had gained in France.

He now (1845) visited the Cleveland district, and there met Mr. John Harris, of the Stockton and Darlington and the Wakefield and Goole railways. Mr. Harris suggested that he should commence works in Middlesbrough for the manufacture of railway switches and crossings. With a capital of £1000, advanced on loan, these works were started, and proved a financial success.

In travelling about the country seeking orders for his work, Mr. Barningham observed large quantities of worn-out iron rails lying about the works of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company. These rails were returned to different places in Staffordshire, Wales, and Scotland for re-manufacture. Mr. Barningham considered that this re-manufacture might as well be done on the spot, and got from Admiral Lows, general manager of the Company, a contract for the re-manufacture of 4000 tons of rails and 2000 tons of railway chairs. This was the origin of the Pendleton Ironworks, the geographical position of which, however, prevented them from being available for the manufacture of rails on a large scale.

Mr. Barningham, for this reason, determined to establish new works in Cleveland. The works at Albert Hill, Darlington, were thus originated, and it is no secret that they were carried on for many years with almost unvarying success, until in 1873 they were transferred to a limited liability company.

Mr. Barningham subsequently undertook considerable speculations in lead and copper, and at his death had amassed a large fortune.


Contested Will of William Barningham[10][11]

'......William Barningham, the testator, was a self-made man. Born in the year 1825, the son of a small grocer, he started business on his own in a small way in the iron trade, and at a time when great fortunes were to be made by men of ability and enterprise. William Barningham had both. He was a man of marked individuality of character. His lawyer describes him as rough, honest, straightforward, self-educated, ill-tempered, and a very determined man; but also an exceedingly able man. His doctor refers to him as a bad-tempered, imperious man, whose intellectual power was undoubted.

In the year 1858 he commenced business at Pendleton in the iron trade, in partnership with his brothers; and very soon afterwards he started considerable works at Darlington, which afterwards attained a worldwide reputation. Indeed, he was looked upon as one of the pioneers of that trade which afterwards formed so large an industry in in the North of England. He went on prospering, and ultimately sold the ironworks at Darlington to a limited company. He died in November 1882, leaving a fortune of nearly half a million.

So much for Mr Barningham's intellectual ability. He married in 1855 a lady who inherited a considerable fortune in her own incontrovertible right. He made several wills, from all of which he excluded her. There was but one child of the marriage, Mary Barningham, and to her he left £20,000, a mere trifle compared with his wealth. The remainder he left to nephews and others.

The will was contested by Mrs. Barningham and her daughter, but the former died before the case came on. It does not seem that there was any foundation for the objection of unsoundness of mind, and perhaps the best possible termination of the case was that of a compromise whereby the principal legatee, a nephew, agreed to pay £120,000 to Miss Barningham.

The evidence disclosed a man of neither education nor polish, very proud, and very sensitive; easily roused to anger and very prone to take offence. It was his habit to exact from others a deference to his own modes of thinking, and he was very much annoyed if his opinions were not deferred to. This rough, strong-willed man could not control himself. When family differences happened he would leave home and have recourse to drink at a neighbouring public-house; but five years prior to his death he became a teetotaller, and he remained an abstainer from drink to the time of his death. It should be added that he was as intolerant in his teetotallism as in everything else. Family differences often happened, owing chiefly to his own overbearing disposition and violent temper. His nephew stated in evidence that Mrs. Barningham was treated by her husband with the greatest cruelty, and the relationship between them was always strained. The house in which the testator lived would be rented at about £60 a year. He only kept one servant, and in witness's opinion lived at the rate of from £250 to £300 a year.

During the latter portion of the time that Mr. and Mrs. Barningham lived together they never had any conversation, occupied separate rooms, and in fact lived entirely separate lives. The daughter spent a considerable portion of her time with Mrs. Barningham, and on more than one occasion when Mr. Barningham was sitting alone and miserable in his room music and singing were going on in the wife's apartments. The man who could project and carry on a great industry and amass wealth, sat downstairs nursing his dark and implacable temper. He once gave his wife a watch, and afterwards erased her initials from it "because he was distressed at the sight of anything which suggested a connection between his name and that of his wife." He declared that he would give £10,000 to be separated from her, although her character was unimpeachable. He threw a can of water over her because she dared to take the first cut of mutton at dinner. At another time this angel of the house went into the room where his wife and daughter were dining and threw a scuttleful of coals upon the table. He excluded his wife and daughter from his deathbed, and although remonstrated with by minister and doctor refused to be reconciled because "it would look like giving in." It is recorded that his daughter once called him "a brute," and it does not seem that the appellation, though unkind, was altogether undeserved.

Mr Barningham was a disappointed man. He wanted his daughter and nephew to marry each other, hoping that thus there might be a consolidation of the family interests, and that the name of Barningham, upon which he set great store, should not only be perpetuated, but should have the wealth to enable it to acquire a more prominent position. This union was absolutely declined by the parties most interested. Although of humble origin himself, the testator took great pride in the name of Barningham, had the family history investigated, and was exceedingly proud of the discovery that the Barninghams were known as a Yorkshire family as far back as the twelfth century. Small comfort in the long run could such a "discovery" afford. William Barningham died as he had lived, a disappointed, exacting, unloveable man; and those who inherit his gains have little cause to revere his memory.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1841 Census
  2. 1851 Census
  3. London Gazette 26 January 1855
  4. London Gazette 24 February 1863
  5. London Gazette 8 May 1866
  6. London Gazette 2 August 1867
  7. 1871 Census
  8. 1881 Census
  9. 1882 Iron and Steel Institute: Obituaries
  10. Liverpool Echo, 18 March 1884
  11. Manchester Times - Saturday 15 March 1884